No entiendo por qué el Rey hizo eso. Él lo hizo porque quiso
Unless the Spanish have a definition of "conjunction" that differs from the one I've always understood, both "por qué" and "porque" are both being used as conjunctions in those sentences. It is the sense of their use which differs.
Can these two uses be distinguished in spoken Spanish and if so, how?
por qué (as opposed to the conjunction porque) is in Spanish an interrogative adverb (not pronoun as it's not covering for a noun). In this case it's used in an indirect question. The function of the whole subordinate clause "por qué el rey hizo eso" is as the direct object of the main verb as David said before. If you ask the verb "what do I not understand?" the answer is "por qué el rey hizo eso" (I didn't understand "something" (DIrect Obj.) and that something is "why the king did that"). But the function of "por qué" inside that subordinate clause is that of an adverb expressing a cause.
Hello again Marc -
In the English sentence "I do not understand why the King did that", I would say that, grammatically, the word "why" is not acting as a conjunction.
"Why" is a 'interrogative pronoun'.... and it is being utilized here as part of a phrase [> "why the king did that"] which is the object of the verb 'understand'.
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